Bask – “A Graceless Shuffle” (Song Premiere)
Bask made my 17 Bands You Need to Know From Asheville, North Carolina post last spring, and with very good reason: I’d been a huge fan of their particular brand of epic Appalachian stoner rock since first seeing them live in late 2014. I included a link to their 2014 album American Hollow. It’s a quintessential first album because it offers only a solid representation of their music, not the full, uncompromising content. The production, while competent, simply did not capture the full grandeur of the band’s live performances. Nobody is at fault for this; rather, this was merely the reality of an up-and-coming band testing the waters on their first release.
Bask’s latest, Ramble Beyond, is a whole different beast. This is a massive album in sheer scope of sound and depth of production. These a lot of crunch and the low end has been fleshed out, essential for a band like Bask whose string section relies on a significant level of bass for its power. The drums crack and boom in equal measure, and there’s just the right amount of reverb throughout to give the music a deep-valley feel without descending into shoegaze shenanigans. For me, the moment of ultimate revelation came at 0:55 of “Asleep in the Orchard,” the leading single from the album. When that absolutely beastly riff punches its way out of your speakers, it’s like a blast of cold wind on a clear winter day.
Production alone, while a major indicator of a record’s staying power, is not the end-all-be-all. For that, you need songwriting, and this is where the band’s true power comes to the fore. I’ve heard the components of Bask’s music before: Baroness, U.S. Christmas, Bruce Springsteen, Crazy Horse, Across Tundras, and so forth. But I’ve never heard them together as one unit. If someone were to ask me if it were possible to be heavy without being brutal, I’d refer them to Bask. Guitars clang and shimmer and make excellent use of both brawny rock riffs and slithering melodies; traditional American blues scales and pentatonics fly with equal abandon, making clear Bask’s great debt to classic southern rock. Vocalist Zeb Camp’s vocals echo and soar without ever coming across as pretentious or cheesy: it’s almost like the halfway point between John Dyer Baizley and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. The arrangements are tight but never too calculated: the record moves and grows with an organic deliberation, like the roots of an oak tree.
On top of the excellent songwriting and huge production, what really clinches Bask for me is their appeal to one of my foundational interests in music: a deeply rooted conception of place. This is Appalachian folk music for the 21st century, make no mistake. Whenever I’ve hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail or looked across the valley from the cliff at Looking Glass Rock, this is the music I’ve subconsciously heard, even before I’d ever actually heard it. Ramble Beyond’s song titles and lyrics cement this evocation of the great Appalachian mountains: just as the traditional folk music of these mountains has been described as the “high lonesome sound,” thus does Bask have a song called “The Lonesome Sound.” Listen to “In the Black Firs” and you might as well be standing among the firs on Mount Guyot. It’s winsome and rooted in an abiding love for the home without ever coming across as forced or chauvinistic.
I can’t say for certain whether Ramble Beyond will be my favorite album of the year, but it has automatically ensured itself a place in my top 10. This is the perfect representation of Bask’s outstanding live performances and, unless something goes terribly wrong, is the album that I suspect will ultimately make a national presence of Bask. It’s tuneful, heavy, full of heart and soul and wanderlust, and above all, a killer fucking rock album. But hear for yourself. Stream “A Graceless Shuffle” below.
Bask has this to say about the song:
"A Graceless Shuffle" was conceived while guitarist, Ray Worth, was traveling through Southeast Asia. Ray brought a tiny parlor guitar and worked on songs when he had downtime. The riff journeyed home to the rest of the band and was arranged, added, subtracted and rearranged until we were happy. The song was different for us. It had a human pace that waxes and wanes. The rhythm was not unlike feet pounding against a path. It was begging for a story. The 1904 Olympic Marathon is about as interesting as a race could be. Participants collapsed in the summer heat, were chased by packs of wild dogs, slept off hangovers during the event and drank poison to enhance their performance. "A Graceless Shuffle" describes the winner stumbling, near death, across the finish line
Bask is going on tour for the following dates.
3/3/17 - BROADWAYS, Asheville, NC - ROYAL THUNDER, HOWLING TONGUES
3/15/17 - 123 PLEASANT STREET Morgantown, WV - CAVERN
3/16/17 - SPACEBAR Columbus, OH - CAVERN, BRIDESMAID
3/17/17 - GREEN LANTERN, Lexington, KY - CAVERN, HAWKBILL
3/18/17 - THE HIDEAWAY Johnson City, TN - BACKWOODS PAYBACK, BONES OF MARY